So...how do you keep all this equip powered

With all the talk of gadgets for ones vehicles it is not talked about how to keep this all running/charging/etc without killing the alternator. Between my chasing gear, camping gear, and rock collecting gear I have my fair share of gadgets. Although they all are never on at the same time I have a good amout of lights on the exterior of the vehicle (with some more about to go on) to light up a campsite. I fear one day I will have my computer, radios, lights, etc on and my alternator is just going to give up on me; likely in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I have a 2000 Chevrolet Tahoe with a stock alternator. Is there anyone who has upgraded theirs and can give advice? Which ones to stay away from? I want to know what I should upgrade too as well as how much I am likely to dish out.

thanks

Graham Butler
[email protected]
wx5svr
 
I originally upgraded my alternator on my '95 Pontiac Bonneville for reasons of car audio (need the juice to power an 1800w amp lol). However, it obviously comes in handy now that I need to power radios, etc. At any rate, I looked into remanuf. alternators or custom-made alternators... In the end, I took the less expensive route and just got the alternator made for the supercharged version of the Bonneville, which adds (I think) ~40 amps relative to my stock alternator. So far it has worked, although I just went through one battery pretty quickly. I now have a relatively heavy-duty that lets me run my radios, etc, without the car on for a long time...

Edit: Also, they really aren't that expensive. My has a long warranty and was like $80 maybe... Don't remember exactly, since I got it a couple of years ago. It's remanu, but it's less expensive than new, and with the warranty, if it does go out, I'll just go back and get another one. So far, however, it hasn't been an issue.
 
Power, must have MORE power!

When I was in New Mexico (ages ago!) my Isuzu Trooper doubled as an emergency vehicle (I was EMS Supervisor for a Fire Department). With all the radios, lights and other odd assortments, I did go with an Oversize Alternator. Unfortunately, that was well over 10 years ago and I don't remember what I went with!

What I currently have now though seems to be fairly adequete for the load placed on it.

97 Ford Ranger, stock alternator, 800W/1600W Inverter. Scanner, and cell run from accessory plug wired direct to battery. Ham is also direct to bettery. Laptop and MM run from the inverter. So far, there hasn't been any issues. Battery holds up really well, and I haven't seen any sudden drops on the meter.

I have a 4 guage wire going to a brass distribution block, the 8 guage going from there to the Inverter and wherever else I need the power.

John
 
I've never had alternator trouble, although I don't run too many things at once. At most, I usually only use the laptop, WxWorx and the scanner at the same time.

The battery is another story. If you happen to leave your inverter on with something plugged in to it, it can run your battery down in less than 30 minutes if you shut your engine off. A lightbar, even a small one, is a power hog and will completely drain the battery in less than 10 minutes if your engine isn't running.

That brings up another good piece of chase gear to have, especially if you have a lot of electrical equipment installed - the battery starter pack. I have one and it has come in handy during a couple of the aforementioned scenarios.
 
Re: Power, must have MORE power!

Scanner, and cell run from accessory plug wired direct to battery. Ham is also direct to bettery. Laptop and MM run from the inverter. So far, there hasn't been any issues. Battery holds up really well, and I haven't seen any sudden drops on the meter.

I have a 4 guage wire going to a brass distribution block, the 8 guage going from there to the Inverter and wherever else I need the power.

John

A direct power connection to the battery is the best way for running 12V accessories. You don't have the power fluctuations like you would going through the vehicles existing wiring. Most modern inverters have a low power alarm and shutdown which will leave enough power to restart your vehicle provided it is easy to start to begin with, not a lot of cranking. While chasing it is a good idea not to turn your engine off anyways unless you are overheating then you shouldn't be chasing in that vehicle.

I drive a 1995 Dodge Intrepid with the stock alternator and I have never had any battery or alternator problem. I use my scanner, HAM radio, TV, inverter with laptop and extra camcorder batteries on charger and all my factory running lights/headlights on. I also keep a jump start pack as well in the trunk at all times. I have had to use it on other peoples vehicles but never my own yet.
 
My question is not how to hook up all my gear (thats already done); all of which is hardwired. I also dont think you guys quite realize how many lights (spotlights) I have on my vehicle. Once the last few are hooked up if I turned them all on I would likely kill my alternator in a matter of minutes.

thanks

Graham Butler
wx5svr
[email protected]
 
Chevrolet does make high output alternators for ambulances, polices and fire department vehicles (Suburbans/trucks). A local auto parts store should have access to them, if not for some reason you might ask around at your local fire or police department. They use Chevrolet/GMC vehicles most of the time. Here in my town there is a place that does "cruiser conversions" for our police department. You might have a place similar to that around where you live.
 
My question is not how to hook up all my gear (thats already done); all of which is hardwired. I also dont think you guys quite realize how many lights (spotlights) I have on my vehicle. Once the last few are hooked up if I turned them all on I would likely kill my alternator in a matter of minutes.

thanks

Graham Butler
wx5svr
[email protected]

That stock alternator is 105 amps Graham. Subtract about 40 amps for running the engine, stock lighting, etc (all the stuff that came stock) still gives you about 65 amps to work with. Those strobes are very power effienient and probably only pull a couple amps for the rear and a couple for the front. That takes off another, let's say 5 amps to be on the safe side (I don't think it's that much). Leaves us another 60 amps. That traffic bar FULLY LIT (and it's never fully lit) pulls about another 10 amps max, so leaves us 50 amps. That's enough to probably run two sets of those lights you have on the rack at once time. The key to this whole setup with all those you plan to add to the rack is that really you would never need ALL of them on at the same time. The stock ALT should be sufficient barring cranking on everything at once and looking like a UFO! :lol:
 
I just saw a solar powered trickle charger at Radio Shack last night. I was short on time, so didn’t get to check it out. I thought it was a novel idea if it works. Has anybody used one of these? Don’t know how well it would work for a chaser lol.
 
I just saw a solar powered trickle charger at Radio Shack last night. I was short on time, so didn’t get to check it out. I thought it was a novel idea if it works. Has anybody used one of these? Don’t know how well it would work for a chaser lol.

Those would not be good for a chaser for two reasons. First, they need a lot of sunlight which chasers don't get while in a storm. Second they are made for RV's, boats and anything that sits for long periods of time. They put out small amounts of electricity and would take many hours if not days to recharge your battery which chasers don't have if they want to be productive.
 
Lights, lights and more lights

Graham,

What I had on my trooper, was the old style stuff that pulled lots of power. I used a heavy duty battery and (if my memory serves :( ) a 165 amp alternator. Obviously, this wasn't stock. However, it did run the following:

4 KC Highlighters
1 Red 4 lamp lightbar
2 alternating flashers (front grill)
2 alternating flashers (rear cargo rack)
4 mini flood lights (2 either side of the vehicle)
2 Motorola VHF Radios (Fire Department)
1 Scanner
1 Warn Winch
1 Inverter (this powered 8 battery chargers, for VHF HT's, 3 4 D cell rechargable flashlights) 2 Physio Battery chargers for life pak 5 (Defibrillator) and portable suction units.

That's a lot of juice.

Just looking on the internet, it seems you can find heavy duty alternators (100+ amps) for about $150 or so. You can also contact just about any Ambulance or Fire Engine manufacturer and they'll tell you where to look.

I hope your wiring is sound with some fairly heavy guage wiring though. If not and you've used the stock wiring that comes with a lot of the lights these days, you may end up frying a lot of stuff. Those wires get hot in a hurry!

Hope that helps!

John
 
Re: Lights, lights and more lights

I hope your wiring is sound with some fairly heavy guage wiring though. If not and you've used the stock wiring that comes with a lot of the lights these days, you may end up frying a lot of stuff. Those wires get hot in a hurry!

Hope that helps!

John

Trust me.....his wiring is sound! :wink:
 
Had a hand in it? David,

David,

Have a hand in it did you? :)

Actually, I'm hoping to see a picture of this thing with 50 GW of candlepower. Should be pretty slick! :D

John
 
Re: Had a hand in it? David,

David,

Have a hand in it did you? :)

Actually, I'm hoping to see a picture of this thing with 50 GW of candlepower. Should be pretty slick! :D

John

Yeah you might say that. :wink: All of the wiring currently in it that isn't factory I did. He has these very bright driving lights on top (hella I believe). They are mounted to the front of the roof rack. They are 55w each if memory servers (Graham?). He has some more on order and there will be a total of 5 across the front, wired so that you can use 2 or 3 or all 5. He also wants to add some sort of floodlighting to both sides and to the rear, don't think the decision has been made to go with the same type lights or something different yet. Those would be done in pairs, one pair to each side and one pair to the rear. What you don't see are strobes hidden in the amber rear turn lights. He has a windshield mount single strobe but I think that is going to be replaced with amber strobes in the DRLs at some point. Here are a few pics during the "upgrading" to chase vehicle. I don't seem to have any of the finished interior, maybe Graham can go grab a few and post them. (send em to me Graham if you want me to host the pics). It was a fun project although the most fun was watching Graham's face as I drilled the first hole in the roof for his ham radio antenna! :lol:

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Re: Had a hand in it? David,

David,

Have a hand in it did you? :)
John

I think he did about 90% of the work on the vehicle. Thanks again David for working your ass off on this thing. What he didnt mention is that it took the better part of 4 days to wire this thing up. I was busy taking finals and studying while he worked on it. He finnished at midnight the night before we left for KS for a week long trip. I am very happy to say that I have had NO problems what so ever with the work he did. The only thing that happened was that the paint came off tv antenna on the roof (which we expected) and I broke off my wilson cell antenna driving under a very low tree :roll:

He has these very bright driving lights on top (hella I believe). They are mounted to the front of the roof rack. They are 55w each if memory servers (Graham?). He has some more on order and there will be a total of 5 across the front, wired so that you can use 2 or 3 or all 5

Yup David they are 55watt Hella 550s. I am still waiting on the rest of these lights since the place where I get them is backordered through Hella.

He also wants to add some sort of floodlighting to both sides and to the rear, don't think the decision has been made to go with the same type lights or something different yet.

I am still trying to decide which ones to get but I will likely get trailer reverse lights similar to the flood lights used on David's van. For $25 a pair including wiring I can't pass it up.

I should be getting the brushguard later this month or early next month. I will be putting either a pair of KC 6in round lights, ProComp 8in round lights, or ProComp rectangle lights on the brushguard (round or rectangle??? what do you think?)

I don't seem to have any of the finished interior, maybe Graham can go grab a few and post them.

I will take a break from studying for my Friday calc test tomorrow and go take some.


Thanks again David

Graham Butler
wx5svr
[email protected]
 
Also, remember that the "rating" on an alternator is for the maximum output, which occurs at higher RPMs. IF you're idling, you won't get anywhere near the "max" output from your alternator. Since chasing, while involving lots of driving, still deals with plenty of idle time or at least low-RPM (low-speed driving, cruising at 65 in top gear -- both which result in relatively low RPMs), I still think it'd be smart to spend the extra dinero for a more heavy-duty alternator.

Here is a little table* I found that seems to match what many manufacturers list/say:

RPM Cold/Hot Cold/Hot
2000 51/41 42/31
2500 78/63 73/58
3000 92/76 93/76
3500 102/85 107/87
4000 108/92 117/96
4500 114/96 123/102
5000 118/99 127/107
5500 121/102 131/110
6000 123/104 134/113
6500 124/106 136/116

As you can see, you don't get anywhere near the rated output amperage unless you're running high RPMs. Again, the higher the overall rater output, the higher the output at lower RPMs... Ever turn on AC on a hot day while parked somewhere? Notice how your car's voltage drops significantly? Mine drops usually from the running voltage of ~13.7v to ~12.5v if I'm running AC with max fans, denoting that I'm almost drawing straight from the battery, which is very bad news if you want your battery to last a long time...

Now, regarding loads... Yes, you have the standard, 'engine-on' load (Which I heard is more around 60amps for most vehicles), but all the add-ons can really "add on". Knowing that P = V * I ... Then I (in amps) = P / V ... At 55w each, assuming 14v running (most vehicles run between 13.5v and 14v when the engine is on), that's approx 4 amps per bulb. But wait, the 55w will be 55w "in" if the bulb were perfectly efficient, which isn't the case. Nonentheless, with five bulbs, that's about 20 amps. Now, say you're transmitting on a 50w ham radio, my manual for my rig tells me a max of 8.5amps. Car radio? Scanners? And don't even start with AC, which tends to put a rather signficant drag on everything... Yes, you may be "okay", but a stressed electrical system in your car is undesirable obviously, and tends to cut short battery life.

* - http://www.amplepower.com/products/alt/ which is similar to http://www.mechman.com/alt.htm and many others in terms of just showing the correlation between RPMs and alternator output.
 
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